Brandon Wolak, KC SportsNation
All seems so right in the world of Sporting Kansas City (4-2-2) after this weekend: ring ceremony, beautiful weather, goals by Jacob Peterson and Claudio Bieler, Eric Kronberg playing out of his mind between the posts, a 2-0 win against a really good Columbus Crew side, an unbeaten record at home, and first place in the East. Life is good.
The big take away from Sunday, for me at least, is the redemption of the three aforementioned players (Peterson, Bieler, and Kronberg).
I am a big fan of Jacob Peterson. Dude is rock solid box-to-box, and his Charlie-hustle mentality fits perfectly into the style of soccer that Peter Vermes champions. The big knock against Peterson always seems to be that he isn’t a goal poacher. Fair enough. What he lacks in goal scoring prowess he more than makes up for in defense. I lost track of the number of times that Peterson forced a Crew player to make a bad pass or errant touch. Dare I say that he is proving to be a poor man’s Graham Zusi (minus the set piece mastery and sweet hair)? Seeing Peterson score his first goal since 2012 and subsequently punching the signboard makes me glad this madman plays for SKC.
It’s not so much that Claudio Bieler has fallen out of form (or out of favor) as much as it is Dom Dwyer has played extremely well to start the season. When Bieler entered the game for Dwyer with mere minutes left on the clock, it was my first instinct to write the appearance off as “garbage minutes.” The Crew had just gone down a man (after threatening most of the second half), and Sporting was well within reach of the result. Perhaps I am giving Vermes too much credit with my revisionist thinking, but maybe there was a method to this madness. Getting Bieler an easy look and finish (props to a selfless Graham Zusi on the assist) might do wonders for his confidence as the club prepares for the departures of Zusi, Matt Besler, and (potentially) Benny Feilhaber for the World Cup. If Zusi and Feilhaber are both gone, there is room for Bieler and Dwyer to coexist. My Spidey-senses are telling me that the preseason pairing of Bieler and Dwyer was in anticipation of this eight game stretch in late spring. Vermes is crazy like a fox.
Defensively, Eric Kronberg straight up dominated every chance afforded to him against the Crew. Save after beautiful save, Kronberg looked every bit the part of top-five keeper in the league. His gunslinger mentality is a bit much for some, but he is nothing if not entertaining. Every time the man leaves his line I can feel the collective gasp of the Cauldron. Believe it gentle readers, the Kronic leads the league in goals against (.75), and is doing it with a rotating door of talent in front of him. Sporting have started a menagerie of lineups thus far, be it to injury, card accumulation, or managerial decision, yet Kronberg has consistently improved. At times, he has been downright brilliant. I still believe that his best days are ahead of him.
The final cherry on top of this weekend was the championship ring ceremony. As per usual, the experience was understated, classy, and top notch. The SKC ownership group just gets it. Before all the festivities started, I was hanging out in the Member’s Club waiting to get to my seat. I heard a little commotion and I looked up to see Robb Heineman. This in itself is not unusual; Heineman usually hangs out with fans before the game. What was unusual was that he was letting Caldronites try on his championship ring, relatively unsupervised. It was a surreal experience to slip that hunk of white gold and diamonds over my right index finger—an experience that I’ll never forget.
The best Heineman moment of the day occurred during the ring ceremony. When hometown hero Matt Besler received his ring in front of a raucous Caldron, Heineman shook his hand and allegedly quipped, “You’ve got nine more fingers on your hands.”
Sporting are back in action this Saturday at 3:00 PM CDT as they travel to Montreal to face the Impact (1-4-3). Catch the game on KMCI-TV, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @Baron_von_KC for the live Tweet.